Josh Brownlie

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Josh is the owner of Bulleen Screens and a regular attendant at our Business Network events. He has a son (Lockhart) in Year 8, is married to Simone and they also have daughter, Cilla going to Siena next year.

Josh grew up in Tasmania and attended both school and University there.

Having enrolled to do Engineering at University, Josh took a 12 month break. During this period he traveled to the US, England & Europe with the Australian Wind Orchestra playing Saxophone. His entrepreneurial skills also surfaced at this time with Josh finding a number of sponsors donating a total $2,000 in 1991, while working up to 6 casual jobs at once including the ice cream shop he worked in from age 15.

When it came time to go to University, a friend strongly urged Josh to consider a Commerce/Law degree instead of Engineering as he had displayed an interest and propensity for this area. He completed his double degree in ’96 and headed to Sydney to do Auditing from ’97 with KPMG. He worked there for the next four years followed by two and a half years in Hong Kong. Audit provided strong insights into how big business operates, while also ingraining discipline & structure to his work ethic. International secondments were common after completing the Chartered Accounting Professional Year and most chose London, but Josh was guided to try Hong Kong for a truly different experience. He had a great time and learnt a lot, but he realised the strictly hierarchical business culture and constant grey skies weren’t for him in the long run.

During his first year in HK, Josh was roped into a Start Up business which he then worked on full time after resigning from KPMG. The business was called Oxia and made small oxygen tanks. The idea being that bottled water was popular, so why not oxygen for recovery purposes etc. They targeted corporate travellers at boutique hotels, high-end retail and had many NHL Ice Hockey sides using it. One of the five founders sourced $1 million in seed funding and in the end there was three million US invested but no significant profit. (At one stage the team even pitched to Donald Trump!).

On the back of this, the next business Josh started up himself, was to sub-contract the supply of cylinders to Ozito for a small, refillable gas cylinder & regulator combination for tradies to hang from their tool belts which would power nail guns. Josh budgeted that he could just afford an initial 6,000 unit order, but the order escalated to 10,000, requiring an emergency short-term loan of an extra $100,000 from a fellow Oxia founder (at credit card interest rates!). He built a factory to fill and distribute these, which so impressed Ozito that they ordered a second run of 10,000 units before it had even launched in Bunnings. The business didn’t succeed due to reliability issues with the Ozito sourced regulator and internal politics of the product not coming from Ozito’s traditional power tool supply network.

It was now 2009 and the depths of the GFC where an entrepreneurial ex-Charted Accountant isn’t an attractive employment proposition, so he began research into small businesses he could possibly take over. Josh looked in detail at between 10-15 varying businesses before finally hearing about Bulleen Screens. Borrowing a significant amount of money from an acquaintance and the bank, Josh purchased Bulleen Screens from the three founding partners. Josh has since bought out the financial partner.

Interestingly, even though Bulleen Screens is now based in a lovely factory in Oakleigh, the initial start up was in the garage of one of the original partners in Barack St (just round the corner from Marcellin College).

Josh has always felt he could run a successful business. He grew up with parents who ran their own successful business making false teeth and he had confidence in himself. Doing Commerce was useful as it can be applied to all sorts of businesses and from his earliest jobs as a student and through his time at KPMG he could see that it was possible if you’re not afraid of hard work and keep your eyes peeled for opportunities.

The main factors influencing the success of Josh’s business are the reputation of the company, it’s product, and the staff. He employs around 20 people.

Funnily enough when asked what are some challenges in his business, the answer is also staff. He says that people are definitely the most challenging aspect of business. Other factors are the economic conditions (if building slows, so does the demand for screens). And keeping up with innovation in the market (eg software, retractable screens).

S.W.O.T

Strengths: reliability, can deal with the unusual, high production capacity

Weaknesses: making screens correctly is more complicated than it looks and hard to make consumers and staff understand this, Summer is very busy and difficult to identify and train new workers quickly in critical roles.

Opportunities: Addressing all of the weaknesses!

Threats: competitors working out of home, social media reputation

Josh is happy to offer a 10% discount for the 2 weeks if people quote code “MBN19” when making first contact. Get in contact with Josh here.

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